Right - I think it's about time Electric Jive delved deep into the mbaqanga archives for some more special compilations! Over the next two weeks, we will present a number of township jive anthologies. Today we draw our attention to an infectious dancefloor music of choice for many of South Africa's township-dwelling population of the 1970s. EJ has previously shared a number of fantastic accordion jive albums and individual singles, but never before have we devoted an entire post to the hugely successful genre. So here we are! Accordion Jive Special - Vol. 1 draws together 20 instrumental hits originally released on 45 rpm format between 1973 and 1985.
The idea for this post actually came about after digitising a large batch of recently accumulated singles of varying styles - sax jives, soul pop, bump jive, girl groups, solo male numbers, and so on. To me, much of the accordion jive material that popped on and off my turntable actually sounded rather uninteresting and repetitive compared to the other 45s. It took me a few singles more to get into the groove and subsequently realise what accordion jive was intended for. It wasn't music to be analysed or deconstructed… it was dance music with a distinctly 'traditional' influence; music to be played if one felt in the mood to jump and jive until they dropped; the perfect accompaniment to hectic dancefloor moves.
It's difficult to pin down exactly when the first accordion jive recordings were produced. But the style almost certainly developed after the arrival of the first famo musicians to the recording studios of Johannesburg in the late 1960s. Some of the early stars of Basotho famo included Forere Motloheloa, piano-accordion player for the legendary Tau ea Matsekha which began recording for EMI (Coplan, 1994). The earliest known accordion jives were produced at Gallo's Mavuthela Music division under the supervision of producer Rupert Bopape in 1969. Piano-accordionist Mtabhane Ndima, backed by the Makgona Tsohle Band, recorded a few instrumental singles for Mavuthela's popular Inkonkoni label (some of these singles were later released onto the LP Thala Thala, a 1971 compilation of Mavuthela instrumental hits which can be downloaded from Electric Jive here).
A lead accordion backed by the elastic mbaqanga rhythm suddenly developed into a craze. Some of those who followed Ndima into the music industry included Walter Ndaba, Delford Ngcemu, Johannes Lenkoe, Joseph Mazibuko, Jeremia Luvuno, Mzwandile David, Johnson Mkhalali and a whole host more. For the entirety of the 1970s and well into the 1980s, singles categorised as 'accordion jive' or 'sax and accordion jive' were recorded and pressed in their hundreds. All of the major mbaqanga instrumental teams of the day produced accordion jives - from the Makgona Tsohle Band to Abafana Bentuthuko to the Boyoyo Boys. In Accordion Jive Special - Vol. 1, Electric Jive presents some of the best hits from back in the day.
Every track is enjoyable and certainly danceable but I have a few particular favourites. “Kagiso Special”, from Johannes Lenkoe and His Accordion, has a tetchy percussive beat and - aside from the airy piano-accordion melody - memorable rhythm and bass lines. Mzwandile David improvises a striking introduction to “Repairs”, credited to Marks and The Shaluza Boys, but actually the Makgona Tsohle Band complete with West Nkosi on alto saxophone. Alfred Makalima's “Station Tsikisa” is another gem for me. Makalima and his Township Boys provide an unashamedly rough-and-ready beat with bright percussion and sharp guitars, which I always find myself tapping my foot to if at the computer desk. Then there's “Transkei Special” with its watery guitar repetition and arresting accordion work from Johnson Mkhalali. Mzwandile David returns with his majestic accordion rhythms in “First Stop Mapetla”, but the real star of that number for me is Jerry Mthethwa with his superb springy guitar rhythm. “Hela Manyewu”, as recorded by Sebaka Borena (actually a session band led by Elias Lerole on lead guitar and named after a huge early 1970s sax jive hit), rather unusually features male vocals and a rather huge rhythm section comprising accordion, violin, bass, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, drums and tambourine.
“Nomonde”, from the always-solid Mzwandile David (and West Nkosi on alto sax) represents a change in direction with a new pop-style drum backing, recorded when the African music scene was being dominated by a new distinctive fusion of mbaqanga, soul and disco. So, the accordion was made more strident and the drums made harder, as evidenced by Lulamile Simoyi's “Blythswood Special” (from 1980) and Johnson Mkhalali's “Lusikisiki Special” (from 1985). Shortly after the recording of “Lusikisiki Special”, Paul Simon's Graceland album made its mark on the western world and helped to introduce mbaqanga music to an entirely new audience of listeners. (One of the numbers on the album, “Gumboots”, was directly influenced by an early 1980s accordion jive hit by the Boyoyo Boys. Simon tried to recreate the number in the studio but his efforts - and those of the reconstituted Boyoyo Boys - proved futile, so he placed his vocals and horn melodies on top of a recording of the original song.)
Well, there's nothing more I can tell you than this: download Accordion Jive Special - Vol. 1, get your dancing shoes ready, and work yourself up into a frenetic dance frenzy. YEBO!
ACCORDION JIVE SPECIAL - VOL. 1
COMPILED BY NICK LOTAY
01) MAKHONA ZONKE BAND - BUSHMAN ROCK (1976)
02) JOHANNES LENKOE AND HIS ACCORDION - KAGISO SPECIAL (1975)
03) MARKS AND THE SHALUZA BOYS - REPAIRS (1976)
04) TOWNSHIP BOYS - STATION TSIKIZA (1976)
05) MR. V. MZWANDILE - SAKHILE (1977)
06) JOHNSON MKHALALI - TRANSKEI SPECIAL (c1975)
07) MR. V. MZWANDILE - HELELE MAKOTI! (1975)
08) ABAFANA BAMARABI - TJOTJO (1973)
09) DELFORD NGCEM' AND HIS ACCORDION - NTLALAKAHLE (1973)
10) SIPHO MTHETHWA & HIS FRIENDS - FIRST STOP MAPETLA (1973)
11) ABAFANA BESI MANJE MANJE - BATHINI NZIMANDE (1974)
12) JOHANNES LENKOE AND HIS ACCORDION - KELEBONI (c1975)
13) SEBAKA BORENA - DIKOMPONENG (1977)
14) MR. V. MZWANDILE - EMTHIMDE (1976)
15) MATHWALIMBUZI - TICKY DRIVE (1977)
16) SEBAKA BORENA - HELA MANYEWU (1977)
17) MR. V. MZWANDILE - NOMONDE (1976)
18) SHASHA BOYS - MAKOTOPONG (1979)
19) SIMOYI & HIS ACCORDION - BLYTHSWOOD SPECIAL (1980)
20) JOHNSON MKHALALI - LUSIKISIKI SPECIAL (1985)
Download link: MF